The 10 Greatest Inefficiencies in UK Education

News / January 25, 2007

How efficient is the UK education system in meeting its core goals and values? Indeed, what are they?

In The Times July 5th Daniel Finkelstein discusses the book ‘Built to Last’ by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Random House) and how David Cameron is following the guidance in the book to find the core values of the Tory party.

So how do we find the core values of UK education? The book suggests that “when you want to do something like run a school, you ask “Why”. Five or six iterations of “Why?” and you might begin to hit your core.”

So what are the core values of education?

1) A core value of state education in the UK seems to be that schools and universities should not make a profit and in this regard the sector is probably 100% efficient;

2) Another core value of state education seems to be that schools should be public sector monopolies with, therefore, no real competition or choice. In this regard the sector is also roughly 100% efficient; in Brighton this month for example, there is only one unfilled place at any secondary school. Local parents therefore have no real choice and local schools need not worry about parents moving their children to a competing school;

3)Of course, the most important core value is that of educating our children. In this regard it is clear that the sector is 53% efficient, according to the latest government survey which reported that there are 15m barely numerate adults in the UK; and nearly 47% of children leave school every year adding to this number. This inefficiency blights the lives of generations of Britons, so what are its causes?

The 10 Greatest Inefficiencies in UK Education

For the past 200 years education in the UK has displayed the following inefficiencies. If ever there was a sector waiting for modernity to revolutionise it, it is education:


Symptom: The Sunday Times reported that comparative studies show that formal learning has an efficiency rate of 5% – 10%. Pupils taught through conversation and discussion remember up to 40% more;

Solution: Aligning building design, learning platform technology, teaching styles and commercial model will provide the time and financial incentive to provide more informal learning opportunities whilst making formal learning more interesting, accessible and effective;


Symptom:“Life in Classrooms” the classic 1968 study by anthropologist Philip Jackson showed that children in school spent up to 50% of their time waiting. Roland Meighan, formerly a special professor of education at Nottingham University measured children in a primary school spending 60% of their time “waiting for something to happen”;

Solution: Effective use of a learning platform, aligned with appropriate building design, learning styles and better teacher support and preparation, means that students would never have to wait;


Symptom: Teachers spend as much time preparing for classes and marking work, as they do talking to and engaging students.

Solution: Effective use of learning platforms by the faculty management teams, some of whom may never teach, will allow teachers to get their teaching time back.


Symptom: Bureaucracy has increased to the point where it is breaking the back of teachers, and crowding out teaching time. Bureaucracy is a symptom that the organisation’s operations and core values are not aligned; thereby requiring an independent army of target setters and checkers to direct and police the performance of the organisation. Bureaucracy is a name and shame exercise: no wonder teachers are demoralised: it’s a witch hunt.

Solution: Define the core value as educating children and then deregulate the sector so that it can operate as it sees fit to fulfill those core values. There will be no need for bureaucracy because competition and choice will raise standards, just as it does in every other sector of the economy from books and newspapers, to cars, phones and holidays.


Symptom: Lack of control in classrooms disrupts lessons and wastes teaching time. In failing schools it is endemic.

Solution: The Education Bill brings forward new powers for schools and teachers to handle disruptive behavior effectively. New building design and learning platform technology, including surveillance camera integration, will collect evidence effortlessly and efficiently and enable management teams to manage the problem effectively. Excess private capacity and, therefore, real competition between school management teams will ensure that every school manages this problem effectively.


Symptom: Why run before you can walk? Why teach the whole curriculum before students show mastery of at least one part of the curriculum? Why teach anything until students have appreciated why they need to learn at all? Why waste so much time and so many years effectively teaching nothing, according to government reports, to 47% of the school population?

Solution: Align school design, learning technology, teaching philosophy and commercial interest so that ALL students, of EVERY ability range, are personally looked after by a STABLE management team throughout their school career; a management team with the common objective of sparking a thirst for independent learning in every student, according to their personal preferences.


Symptom: 15m barely numerate adults, according to the government’s latest report and 47% of the school population leaving school in a similar condition every year, points to a lack of motivation at every level: parent, student, teacher, head, managers and government. It’s hard to feel motivated when failure is so routine and so endemic.

Solution: Today is different. We have the technology to end the scarcity of educational resources, to manage all students individually, including the disruptive ones, and help them. We have the political will to allow the wind of entrepreneurial flair to blow into the sails of the public sector because the age of ideological and now rhetorical politics is drawing to an end.

Today we have all the tools to get the job done: soon the motivation and aspirations of parents, teachers, heads, managers, shareholders and government will rise to the challenge: to educate all our people, not just half of them.


Symptom: Good teachers leave the profession every year in droves: the job is tough; the paperwork is oppressive; the behavior is frightening; progress is slow and depressing; In the wider economy, the pay is much better, careers move faster and jobs are more flexible; .

Solution: Deregulate education: allow the wind of entrepreneurial flair to blow into the sails of the public sector. Encourage excess private capacity, paid for by the private sector. Encourage real competition. Encourage real choice: not just for parents and students, but for teachers too. Allow new products to be developed. New revenues streams to be invented. New career paths to be offered. Today is the Knowledge economy and high quality teachers will be the superstars of the economy: provided the knowledge economy is deregulated


Symptom: Millions spent on technology but still we have 15m barely numerate adults, according to the government’s latest report and 47% of the school population leaving school in a similar condition every year.

Solution: Deploy the new technologies specifically to remove the inefficiencies highlighted above. Align building design of new schools with the new teaching styles and management techniques that the new technology facilitates and which will more efficient and effective in educating the whole population.


Symptom: Schools facilities are old and antiquated; schools themselves are continually cash-strapped and cannot pay teachers a salary which is commensurate with what they will earn for their technical and managerial skill-set in the broader economy. Schools cannot borrow to invest in their facilities. In short, schools are not dynamic, entrepreneurial businesses operating in the economy’s fastest growing sector: they should be.

Solution: The new Education Bill creates a statutory obligation for local authorities to promote choice. At the same time the bill deregulates the sector and allows schools to manage their own businesses and partner with the private sector. Government and local authorities should encourage the private sector to create not just new capacity, but excess capacity, so that there is real choice and real competition in the sector. This new private sector investment will drive improvements far more quickly and far more profoundly than the too slow, 15 year Building School for the Future government programme, which it would replace and make redundant within just a few years.

Article from

accessed 25th January 2007

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